Xavier is closing in on 10,000 alumni. Many have made their mark, but only a select few have heard their names called in the way Alex Pralea, Akshay Khunte, Mark Grasso and Ryan Miner experienced during their graduation ceremonies.
Pralea was the valedictorian, and Khunte was the salutatorian. Pralea will attend Brown and Khunte will go to Yale.
Grasso was the recipient of the Xavier Loyalty & Service Award. The Falcon Achievement Award went to Miner. Grasso will attend Quinnipiac and Miner will attend Ithaca.
Xavier's virtual graduation ceremonies, held Saturday morning, followed the same script as others, and even if COVID-19 kept us out of direct contact with one another, the video was touching. Click here to view the ceremonies.
Pralea had a perfect GPA over his four years at Xavier.
"Alex has had an outstanding Xavier career, one marked by many great accomplishments," Principal Brendan Donohue said. "He combined intellect, diligence, and work ethic to accomplish what very few before him have – a perfect GPA over all for years."
These last two months have been anything but normal for our seniors, noted by Pralea in his valedictory address.
"So now, as I speak to you, during a time in which everything seems wrong, I encourage you to focus on the good of our time at Xavier, to view the hurdles we have overcome as life lessons and the tedious assignments as skills-builders," Pralea said. "We had gone into senior year expecting closure, a beginning and an end, believing that our senior year could be happily wrapped up in a sweet little package with a bow to be periodically reopened briefly for the obligatory reunion every 10 years.
"Yet we are not afforded this liberty to experience the rituals that mark the end of our time at high school, and that in and of itself is a powerful message. Now, we have a unique opportunity to evaluate how Xavier has woven itself into the fabric of our lives and become an indelible part of our identities rather than just a brief stepping-stone. Together we are united in our grief and joy, demonstrating that Xavier's reputation for having a sense of community is no cliché."
Khunte, like Pralea, has a number of academic honors. He was one of two Xavier students this year to earn the distinction of being a National Merit Finalist. Each year, approximately 1.5 million students enter the National Merit Scholarship program by taking the PSAT in their junior year. Of those students, about 1 percent recognized nationally as finalists for their outstanding performance. Khunte also is a Distinguished Scholar and winner of the Brother Celestine Medal, both prized academic achievements at Xavier.
A segment of his salutatory address: "I would be remiss not to mention the lack of closure my classmates and I feel as our high school careers come to an end. As Andy Bernard from [the TV show] The Office so eloquently once said, 'I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.' Looking back now, it feels as if I did not adequately cherish these good old days back on March 12th, the last time we were all together, in person, as the class of 2020. As we went through the day, had I known it was the end of eating lunch together, of debating the validity of Snapple facts, and of hearing Mr. Flowers' passionate reminders to complete the assigned readings, I would like to think that I would have gone through this last day differently. I would have played one last game of slack poker, conducted one last examination of the yellow jackets in Mr. Markham's room, tried to get Mr. P to tell one last story, taken a few extra red jolly ranchers from Mrs. K for the road, or simply taken a little extra time to take in as much of my second home as possible."
The Loyalty and Service Award, the most prestigious award that the school confers, is presented to a member of the graduating class who is chosen upon the recommendation of the faculty and staff. Loyalty and service are qualities that Xavier strives to teach all its young men; they are vital parts of the school's mission. The choice is based on the consistency and quality of the student's service to the Xavier community and the passion and perseverance he has displayed in his commitment to all aspects that make up the experience of a Xavier student. Simply put, this student is one of the school's most valuable assets.
Said one person of Grasso: "He is perhaps the best combination of all five Xaverian values that I have seen in a Xavier student – Humility, Simplicity, Compassion, Trust, Zeal."
The Falcon Achievement Award recognizes a senior who, during his athletic career, has represented the very best that athletics stand for at Xavier. Chosen upon the recommendation of the faculty and staff, the recipient is a young man who embodies those qualities of loyalty, commitment, sportsmanship and hard work, which characterize Xavier's scholar-athletes.
Said one coach of Miner, the captain of the football team and also an important member of the wresting team: "Selfless, leader, clutch, are words I would use to describe this player. Whatever we asked him to do, he did it, and did it with everything he had. A special young man in the classroom, in the community, and on the field."
The rest of the day's awards for students:
The Religion Award: Nicholas Dighello
The Mathematics Award: Vincent Miano
The French Award: Cameron Beaudoin
The Latin Award: Joseph Marcin
The Social Studies Award: Aiden Cardozo
The Technology Award: Samuel Martin
The Physical Education Award: Nico Kulpik
The Visual Arts Award: Ethan Mulonet
The Music Award: Timothy Rinaldi
The Brother John Collins Campus Ministry Award: Ethan Kerr
A special award is presented at graduation to alumni fathers of graduating seniors. Each father receives an engraved medal with his name and his son's name as well as the years of their graduation. The Legacy Awards this year:
Mr. Adam Brown, Class of 1991, and his son Andrew '20
Mr. Christopher Cahill, Class of 1990, and his son Owen '20
Mr. Charles Carroll, Class of 1985, and his son Tucker '20
Mr. Christopher Codeanne, Class of 1986, and his son Patrick '20
Mr. Thomas Cooke, Class of 1984, and his son Thomas '20
Mr. Ron Cozean, Class of 1981, and his son Robbie '20
Mr. Richard Dighello, Class of 1987, and his son Nicholas '20
Mr. Kyle Dillon, Class of 1990, and his son Liam '20
Mr. Joseph Inglis, Class of 1986, and his son Alexander '20
Mr. Michael Kohs, Class of 1984, and his son Stephen '20 (and Stephen's grandfather Art, who worked at the school as teacher/coach/athletic director from 1963-1997).
Mr. Gregg Lallier, Class of 1990, and his son William '20
Mr. Michael Masselli, Class of 1986, and his son Brian '20
Mr. Carl Pitruzzello, Class of 1986, and his son Eric '20